Anyone want to report on last week's ACA meeting?

Allston02134 reader Dave is wondering "what happened at the Allston community meeting Wednesday night when Councilor Ross was going to talk about limiting the number of students that could live in a single off-campus apartment". I wasn't able to make that meeting, but maybe some other readers were and would be willing to comment on this post with an update.

1 comment:

  1. Michelle Snyder4:44 PM

    Allston Civic Association Meeting 2.20.08

    Good Afternoon,

    With regards to the previous post, I had just wanted to report on Councilor Ross’ presentation to the ACA on Wednesday night, which yielded the support of this organization.

    The powerpoint presentation began with an introduction and background to the issue. In 2003, there was a lawsuit brought against the city after ISD entered a house on the basis of the existing zoning code which stated that only four persons within the “second degree of kinship” (ie parents, grandparent, children, and siblings only) could live together within one dwelling unit under their definition of “Family”. This case, entitled Sang Vo v. City of Boston, effectively invalidated this language when the court found in favor of the plaintiff, leaving a vacuum of ambiguity that allowed landlords to pack as many people as possible into an apartment. There was always the intention to go back and amend the zoning code in order to both update the definition of family and create language that would be able to accommodate for the changing social makeup of the city.

    This changing social makeup is reflected in the fact that many universities in Boston have gone from being commuter schools to desirable institutions that people from out of state are anxious to attend. The problem arises in that these universities are only housing approximately 50% of their students on-campus,* causing spillover into the neighborhoods of students looking for apartments to live in. Moreover, because universities charge on average about $1,000 a month to live on-campus; those students who live off-campus consider anything less than that per student to be a bargain. Unscrupulous landlords can then take advantage of this high rent cap and the gap left in the zoning code by not only charging higher rents, but also through converting any available space into spare bedrooms in order to pack as many students into one apartment as possible.

    There are also serious tax implications for surrounding property owners to these apartments that are able to generate tens of thousands of dollars per month in rent revenue. As many of you are aware, the tax system in Boston is based on the most recent sale of a surrounding property. Therefore, these buildings that used to sell at prices that families and individuals could have purchased are now being sold at prices that only speculators who want to rent to students can reasonably afford. Additionally, long-term residents have been forced to move because of the skyrocketing property tax rates caused by these high-yield sales.

    Based on a rudimentary search of craigslist.com, which is the best way we have available of ascertaining how many of these apartments, and even buildings, are being marketed towards the student population, we were able to come up with a figure of roughly 5,000 units. Of course, this figure is probably far less than the actual number, but it just demonstrates the magnitude of this increasing problem within our city.

    Councilor Ross also presented graphs illustrating the percentage of students within neighborhoods. Based on those numbers, there are several neighborhoods within the city, including Allston and Brighton, who have been overburdened by the student population. In addition, Councilor Ross acknowledges that there does exist an optimal ratio of students in a neighborhood that can help to bring both diversity and vitality to an area. What that “optimal ratio” is can be put up for debate, but the basic fact exists that while some students can improve a neighborhood, those who are facing a significant portion of their population as students experience increasing property values and the quality of life problems that can accompany students as neighbors.

    This zoning amendment has received support from institutions, residents, neighborhood groups and, after the presentation to Allston Civic Association, their support as well.

    For more information or to discuss this matter further, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 617-635-4225.

    Best,

    Michelle Snyder
    Office of City Councilor Michael Ross

    *BRA Insight compilation of University Accountability Ordinance Data 12/01/2006

    ReplyDelete